Thanks to Jeff Shouse for his 3rd place medal winning recipe at the Mazer Cup this year!
This finished dry nearly by accident, we were going for the dry side of semisweet. Flavors of hibiscus and chamomile make good mead separately, but we’ve discovered these flavors play really nicely together, and keeping the mead dry and lighter in body really lets the floral notes shine. We use local wildflower honey, I wouldn’t use anything too strong here otherwise you might lose some of the floral qualities from the other ingredients. The flowers used in the recipe are dried, but freshness makes a big difference here. Source them fresh and use them fresh.
Pour spring water into large pot, attach thermometer or immerse in water. Bring water up to a boil and be prepared to lower heat.
Put ground sumac into coffee filter and fold tightly to make a teabag. Introduce this to your hop bag if you’re using one, otherwise secure with a rubber band. Add hibiscus and chamomile flowers and pack it together firmly but not enough to crush the flowers, then tie up the bag to keep that firmness.
Once the water is boiling, lower the heat and add the herbs. Keep the water temperature above 160F for this part and let the flowers steep at least 10 minutes. This also has the effect of pasteurizing the ‘tea’ and getting rid of bacteria or wild yeasts from the herbs that might contaminate the must.
Rehydrate your yeast and let it start stretching its legs here. I didn’t use GoFerm the first time I made this, but will in the future.
Pull out the hop bag and let drain or skim out the flowers and packet of sumac if not using a hop bag. You’ll lose a little of your gallon of water here but try to minimize that.
Cool the ‘tea’ to 95ºF, I put the pot in an ice bath so that I could aerate it with a sanitized lees stirrer while it was cooling and introduce more oxygen to compensate for that lost during the brief period of boiling.
The warm tea is now a good temperature to loosen up the honey and mix it easily without destroying volatile aromatics, you’ll use around 3 1/2 quarts of it along with about 3lbs honey, target SG 1.110. Add some table honey to taste with any of the tea you have left over, it will have some sharp acidity from the hibiscus, but this your chance to quality control the flavors and have a relaxing cup of tea. Continue cooling it once everything’s nice and incorporated.
Once the must is well mixed, start tempering the yeast starter with the must, give it something to chew on. I like to make a couple half-cup additions to double the size of my starter and get the yeast nice and active and then pitch into the must.
Degas carefully but thoroughly, it has a potential to foam up pretty nasty in its first few days and likewise be careful with staggered nutrient additions for the same reason. I used a blow off tube placed into a wine bottle with some vodka in it instead of an airlock because foam up has been problematic.
Follow staggered nutrient protocol and be patient through ferment, chamomile seems to help the mead clarify quite nicely without fining agents once the yeast have done their part.